Review: Finch – Say Hello to Sunshine

Finch - Say Hell to To Sunshine

It’s been three very long years for Finch fans across the world. After the immense success of the band’s debut full-length What it is to Burn, fans grew tired of watching Finch play tour after tour, performing the same songs that had since grown old. Although Finch had played a large part in triggering the so-called “screamo” explosion, their sound had been replicated by hundreds of other bands who tried to cash in on the screamo fad. Of course, Finch was one the first bands to become a commercial success while performing that style of music. That was three long years ago, and the Finch faithful have been anxiously awaiting another album with bated breath. New demos began to surface, and reactions were widely varied. The consensus seemed to be that everybody absolutely hated Finch’s new style, or loved it. One thing was for sure – Finch’s new material was not going to be What it is to Burn part 2. That brings us to today, just days before Finch’s long awaited follow-up album, Say Hello to Sunshine.

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Review: All Time Low – The Party Scene

All Time Low - The Party Scene

I remember when I was 17 years old. I did a lot of stupid things, as well as some great things, but I never did what the 4 members of All Time Low did. That would be releasing a debut album under independent label Emerald Moon Records. Hailing from Baltimore, All Time Low (consisting of lead vocalist and guitarist Alex Gaskarth, guitarist Jack Barakat, bassist Zack Merrick, and drummer Rian Dawson) have released an album, titled “The Party Scene”, filled with great melodies, catchy sing-alongs, and energizing guitar hooks. If you were listening to this album for the first time, not knowing who the band was, you would think that this would be an established pop-punk band’s second or third album. You would think that a band with four 17 year-olds wouldn’t be able to write an album as good as this. But All Time Low has surprised many, showing that they are very talented despite how young they are. Prepare yourself for 40 minutes of some of the best pop-punk you’ll hear all year.

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Review: Panic! at the Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

Panic! At the Disco - A Fever You Can't Sweat Out

Let’s just get it out of the way: Panic! At the Disco sounds like Fall Out Boy. Extraordinarily so. And it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed: “Is this Patrick Stump’s side project?” and “I honestly thought this was Fall Out Boy playing a joke on people until they started playing shows” are common replies in news posts here regarding the band. You get the idea. Let’s just accept the fact that they’re a bit derivative (hell, they christened themselves after a line in the Name Taken song “Panic”), and go from there.

There has been a shit-load of buzz regarding Panic!: their idea of posting clips of songs from the album on Purevolume on Fridays and full versions on Tuesdays has almost necessitated a good many news posts on AP and on other webzines, which in turn has really put their name out there and gotten people talking about them. Here’s the thing though—people wouldn’t care talk about them unless they were really good, or really bad. And they’re not really bad.

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Interview: Vinnie Fiorello of Less Than Jake

Less Than Jake

Hey, Vinnie. It’s nice to have you here again for round two of the “Brandon vs. Vinnie Interview Series”. What’s been happening since the last time we sat down?

Well, we are in the studio recording our new record in North Hollywood. It’s been 18 days so far. Howard Benson is producing it. He did our Hello Rockview record, but also POD, My Chemical Romance, Motorhead, Papa Roach, Rooney, and The All-American Rejects. It’s going fast. We are almost done.

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Review: Plain White T’s – All That We Needed

Plain White T’s – All That We Needed

Within the first few seconds, the impression is given that this is going to be a fun album. However, a crucial question lingers – will the fun last? The answer is an emphatic NO. The opening track, “All That We Needed”, is a really basic pop-rock song. Clean, simplistic rhythms work the song forward with high, jumpy bass lines. The snare jumps out of your speakers with a pop and my head was nodding without giving it any thought. It’s nothing new – but it’s done really well, as the repetitive chorus will remain in your mind for hours. This is a good thing – for one song. Not 13 songs. The album progresses into a darker song, “Revenge”. This is when the lyrics started to annoy me – “I’ve got the microphone so don’t go too far, I’m gonna tell the whole world how you really are”. The bubbly undertone provided by the album opener has managed to disappear in this song, as the verse is overly basic, the same pulsing beat pops in after each vocal line is spoken throughout the song. No variation means the song isn’t interesting.

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Review: Acceptance – Phantoms

Acceptance - Phantoms

It’s ironic that such a great summer album leaked online a month after the summer of 2004 was over. Now, in April 2005, Acceptance’s debut full-length Phantoms is about to become the mainstream summer hit of 2005. There’s a lot of pressure on this album to sell. A major label debut for a band with no proven mainstream success? A ballad (“Different”) being marketed as the first single? An album leak 6 months before the street release? A lot of questions have been raised regarding this band, but Acceptance has created an album to silence the doubters. Acceptance’s brand of catchy, emotional pop-rock stands out from the pack with killer hooks and stunning vocals. This band is about to take over the airwaves.

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Review: A Static Lullaby – Faso Latido

A Static Lullaby - Faso Latido

Does this band even have fans anymore? A Static Lullaby has returned with their major label debut but sadly nobody seems to care. The disinterest shown by music fans is not unmerited. Faso Latido is an uninspired sophomore album, full of predictable transitions, lackluster energy, and over the top production. The one thing that made A Static Lullaby remotely enjoyable in the first place was the fact that they had a moderate amount of energy. When this energy was manifested, the band truly put forth a good sound. Sadly, this album contains none of it. A Static Lullaby has two vocalists – the singer also drums, and then there’s the screamer who runs around stage awkwardly when he has nothing to do (see Atreyu, Underoath). While those bands have released follow-up albums that utilize all their vocalists, ASL’s sophomore effort does the opposite. A majority of the vocals are now singing only, in fact there are some songs where there is virtually no screaming at all. I’m not condoning or suggesting excessive amounts of screaming by any means, but the entire album lacks life. “Stand Up” is a catchy number that lasts for about 45 seconds before a sharp realization came to me – A Static Lullaby has turned into every other radio screaming band out there. Short verses, predictable choruses that get repeated over and over again for some instant sugar coated bullshit to make listeners happy. Put “Stand Up” on the new Trapt album and I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The screaming, when used, is as obnoxious as ever. It comes in awkward places and is too intense for the often laid back musicianship. Additionally, the slow chanting/talking into screaming transition can only be used so many times.

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Review: Hit the Lights – Until We Get Caught

Hit the Lights – Until We Get Caught

Within 20 seconds of popping in this CD, I had to eject it and make sure I wasn’t listening to new Fall Out Boy demos. The vocal stylings, chord progressions, and mixing all sound very familiar – there’s even gang vocal shouts in the background. Yet despite these similarities, Hit the Lights is very capable of making some noise of their own. Despite this, the CD is permeated with parts that sound exactly like other bands. This EP is 5 songs of infectiously catchy pop-punk that is decently produced and is full of talent, but you have to wonder how much of the instrumentation was indirectly taken from other bands. Still, the verses are full of thick, driving melodies that induce foot-tapping. The second track, “At 6:00, We Go Live,” really fascinated me, basically because it was composed entirely of different sections of pop-punk songs I’d heard before. The drum fills, the stop and go breakdowns, the strumming patterns…it’s all very familiar. Yet I can’t say that the result was anything I didn’t enjoy. Hit the Lights don’t pretend to be anything they’re not – they play catchy, formulaic pop-punk, and they do it well.

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Review: Valencia – This Could Be a Possibility

Valencia - This Could Be a Possibility

Anyone who’s been paying attention to emo/punk e-zine message boards over the last few weeks has undoubtedly noticed a certain buzz regarding one relatively new, obscure band. With each passing day, the buzz has slowly grown louder and louder, as more and more people have chimed in, claming that “this band will be an instant favorite,” and that “pop punk has found its savior.” Signed to I Surrender Records, Rob Hitt of Midtown’s label, Valencia is the band underground pop punk lovers have been raving over lately—and for good reason. This Could Be a Possibility, Valencia’s debut album, is exactly the kick in the pants pop punk has needed for a while now.

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Review: Sherwood – Sing, But Keep Going

Sherwood - Sing, But Keep Going

Sherwood’s sophomore effort his stores May 31st on Side Cho Records, and it just may be the happiest thing to hit your ears all year. In an explosion of pop and rock, Sherwood has not abandoned the style of music experienced on their self-titled EP, but rather embraced it. The EP was full of generic tracks that were easily forgettable, and it seemed like it was time for Sherwood to add some flair to their musicianship or forever be lost in the world of piano-pop emo rock. The EP had some moments of pop bliss to it, and Sherwood has taken those parts they did best and blown it up into an excellent full-length album. Well-produced and full of tender, beautiful melodies, Sing, But Keep Going is an outstanding pop record to transition the seasons into summer.

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Review: Jack’s Mannequin – Everything in Transit

Jacks Mannequin - Everything in Transit

“She thinks I’m much too thin, she asks me if I’m sick”

The opening lines of Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album Everything in Transit, Something Corporate singer/pianist Andrew McMahon’s side project, remind us all too well of Andrew’s recent struggles with leukemia. Written before his diagnosis, the lines turned out to be eerily prescient of his coming sickness. Though he appears to be making a speedy and full recovery thus far (let’s hope there’s no relapse), the sheer idea that we might have lost Andrew is downright heartbreaking and upsetting. It seems, unfortunately, that only when we lose, or are about to lose, someone that we truly appreciate them and all that they have to offer. Let us be thankful then, now and forever, for the breathtaking music that Andrew has given us and will continue to make. Let us never forget how truly fortunate we are to have Andrew with us.

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Review: The All-American Rejects – Move Along

All American Rejects - Move Along

One doesn’t exactly get scene points for listening to The All-American Rejects—with a loathsome, snot-nosed, teenybopper fan base ruining any semblance of “cred” the band might have built up before their sudden mainstream success, along with the sneers of contemptuous music elitists further exacerbating the problem, it’s easy to see why it may not be “cool” to openly like The All-American Rejects. I, however, don’t give a shit. Playing a brand of infectiously catchy, well written modern pop on their self-titled debut, The All-American Rejects exploded onto the MTV scene in 2003 with their falsetto-filled, harmony-saturated “Swing, Swing,” a song bemoaning the recollections of a former love. After a relatively lengthy wait of nearly three years, The All-American Rejects have returned with their highly anticipated Move Along, an album that falls short of extremely high expectations, but delivers just enough to keep dedicated fans (and the record label) happy.

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Review: Gatsbys American Dream – Volcano

Gatsbys American Dream - Volcano

Volcano is epic. Gatsby’s American Dream has matured to an entirely new level. From start to finish Volcano will make you dance, it will make you re-think music, and it will make your jaw drop – not just in places, but for 33 straight minutes. The diversity of this CD is absolutely stunning. Gatsby’s has fully maintained the trademark musicianship that made them so amazing in the first place. Some songs change time signatures and melodies like crazy, others shift directions completely in mid song, while others provide one unifying theme throughout – without choruses. Yet there are other tracks that contain choruses and radio friendly melodies as the band proves to us all that they are more than capable of writing pop music. The lyrics are insightful and deep, as throughout the course of Volcano the concept is revealed. The lyrics refer not only to a physical Volcano but also draw parallels to human emotion, boiling up inside us all, ready to erupt. The music and instrumentation itself is deeper than ever before, as many songs have countless dimensions. Every single time I listen to Volcano, I notice something different, something subtle. All kinds of percussion instruments are used as a supplement to songs, mainly claves as Gatsby’s digs into some Latin influence. The depth to the music is only furthered by the countless references to past Gatsby’s records. If you listen closely, you’ll hear a chord progression from Ribbons and Sugar, or a strumming pattern from Why We Fight. You might even hear a lyric or two from earlier records. Volcano is complete in every way, shape and form. 

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Review: Relient K – Mmhmm

Relient K - Mmhmm

Relient K has been through a lot as a band. They’ve released numerous full lengths and EPs on indie labels, writing super poppy Christian music with often goofy lyrics. They have songs about Thundercats, High School Tolo dances, and another song simply titled “May the Horse Be With You”. Enough said. But all of a sudden, Relient K has experienced a musical revolution. Their brand new full length, “Mmhmm”, is being released on Capitol Records. A major label release for this goofy band? Is it possible? The answer is yes. Relient K’s latest effort is a blast of pop-punk goodness. Every song has a killer hook, the vocals are smooth and melodic, the production is amazing, and the lyrics are *gasp* actually really good – and at times very mature. It all seems like a bit much for this 3-piece, but it’s time to believe it – Relient K is back with a much more mature formula for success.

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Review: Forgive Durden – When You’re Alone, You’re Not Alone

Forgive Durden - When You're Alone, You're Not Alone

Yet another great Seattle band has emerged, and their name is Forgive Durden. This super catchy pop-rock band has released an excellent debut album. When You’re Alone, You’re Not Alone is full of soaring choruses, tempo changes, varied instrumentation, and great production by who else – Casey Bates. Upon first listen of this EP, one will immediately hear the similarities to bands on Rocketstar Recordings – specifically This Providence and Gatsby’s American Dream. Full of technical breakdowns and amazing vocals by lead singer Tom Dutton, currently unsigned Forgive Durden is about to make a name for themselves. 

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